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Freehand sketching for young engineers.

Engineers spend a significant part of their day collaborating with others and sharing theirs ideas. Communication is used throughout the engineering process to help coordinate activities, make decisions, and solve problems (Prusty et al., 2015). One way engineers communicate is through drawings. Drawings can take the form of freehand sketches, blueprints, and even complex computer renderings. But even with the advent of Computer Aided Drawing(CAD), freehand sketching is still used to support CAD work throughout the design process, making sketching a vital skill for engineers (Pache et al., 2001 Yang & Cham, 2007

In the early stages of the design process, freehand sketching allows engineers to share their ideas by conveniently using pencil and paper. Ideas are quickly sketched out, erased, redrawn, and sometimes even crumpled up and thrown into the trash can, only to be retrieved again. Quickly generating ideas helps promote creative thinking, which is key to a design's inception.

Freehand sketching also helps focus engineers' attention on the main concepts and elements of their design. This allows the designer the ability to quickly switch back and forth between different levels of abstraction and complexity (Pache et al., 2001). Furthermore, it is believed that sketching relieves the working memory of the designer, allowing for more reflection and introspection on the design (Pache et al., 2001). But more importantly, the benefits of freehand sketching can help children.

Freehand sketching is a great way to teach children about geometric shapes, spatial visualization, and communication. Through sketching, children can be taught to spy geometric shapes such as squares, circles, and triangles in everyday objects. By doing so, children take complex objects and reduce them to their simplest form. This can enhance their spatial visualization by developing their sense of proportion and length (Alias & Black, 2002). Once children master the skill of freehand sketching, they can share their ideas with others and use their newfound skill throughout the engineering design process.


Grade Level: 1 and 2

For early grade students, teaching sketching skills is a great way to develop and encourage future engineers. As stated by ITEEA, "Starting at an early age, students should be introduced gradually to the importance of design, of visualizing objects, of translating ideas into sketches" (ITEA/ITEEA, 2000/2002/2007, p. 93). To help younger students learn how

Image 1. Mini Cooper. Source: httos:// Automobile#/media/File:2004MINICooDerS-001.JPG to communicate their ideas through sketching, a useful method is the basic shape-sketching technique. Using this technique, students will freehand sketch everyday objects.

Content Area        Standard     Description

Standards for       Standard 8   The attributes of design
Technology                       (Grades K-2)
Literacy: Content                * Everyone can design
for the Study of                 * Design is a creative
Technology                       process
2000/2002/2007)     Standard 9   Engineering Design
                                 (Grades K-2)
                                 * Engineering design
                                 * Expressing design
                                 ideas to others


* Photographs and/or examples of everyday objects

* Pencil

* Paper

* Eraser

Teaching the Basic Shape-Sketching Technique:

Step 1. Begin by having the students learn and practice drawing the four basic geometric shapes.

Basic Shapes





Step 2. Find an everyday object to sketch. For example, have your students sketch a car.

Step 3. Next take the object and help the students look for basic geometric shapes. For example, the car consists of rectangles, triangles, and circles.

Step 4. Now have the students lightly sketch the geometric shapes onto a piece of paper, paying close attention to proportion and length.

Step 5. Finally, have the students round out the sharp corners and add detail to the geometric shapes. Have them use darker and heaver lines to finish the sketch.


Alias, M., Gray, G. E., & Black, T. R. (2002). Attitudes towards sketching and drawing and the relationship with spatial visualisation ability in engineering students. International Education Journal. 3(3), 165-175.

International Technology Education Association (ITEA/ITEEA). (2000/2002/2007). Standards for technological literacy: Content for the study of technology. Reston, VA: ITEEA.

Pache, M., Romer, A., Lindemann, U., & Hacker, W. (2001, August). Sketching behaviour and creativity in conceptual engineering design. In International Conference on Engineering Design ICED01, Glasgow, (pp. 461-468).

Prusty, C., Dwivedy, A. K., & Khuntia, J. (2015). Why and how do engineers communicate? IUP Journal of Soft Skills, 9(1), 45.

Yang, M. C. & Cham, J. G. (2007). An analysis of sketching skill and its role in early stage engineering design. Journal of Mechanical Design. 129(5), 476-482.

Dr. Kurt Y. Michael teaches education courses at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. The author can be reached at

Caption: Image 2. Basic shapes drawn over the photograph of the Mini Cooper.

Caption: Image 3. Student sketch.

Caption: Image 4. Finished student sketch.
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Title Annotation:ACTIVITY
Author:Michael, Kurt Y.
Publication:Children's Technology and Engineering
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2017
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